Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 Review: Should You Buy It?

Review Summary

Pros: close and comfortable shaves, easy to use, good build quality and ergonomics, easy to clean, useful accessories, great battery life, inexpensive replacement heads, quiet

Cons: pricier than other Series 3000 models, cordless only operation, no travel lock

Our Rating:

[4 out of 5 stars]

Buy the Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 (S3311/85)

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The Series 3000 is Philips Norelco’s highly popular line of affordable rotary shavers.

Their excellent price-performance ratio is what made these razors so successful over the years.

And that still appears to be the case with the latest Series 3000 generation that also brings along a nicer design.

However, the Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 (S3311/85) appears to be a more premium model in the 3000 range and it even costs more than the rest.

But does it actually shave better than other rotaries that use the same shaving heads and cost less (like for example, the Norelco Shaver 3500)?

Well, in this review of the Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 we’ll see just how good it is having thoroughly tested this razor for almost a month.

I’ll also share some cheaper alternatives at the end that may actually be better than the 3800 depending on your needs and budget.

So let’s dive right in.

Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 features

As usual, we’ll start the review with a quick look over the main features of the razor.

1. 3-blade cutting system

The Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 uses a classic 3-blade cutting system.

The Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 uses a standard shaving unit with 3 rotary cutters.

The heads are the SH30 blades & guards, the workhorse cutters you’ll find in pretty much all entry-level Philips shavers.

These are simple, durable and relatively cheap blades that work well for most users, but aren’t quite as capable as other more expensive cutters.

But I will get back to the performance and durability later on.

As usual, the cutters are held in these tiny plastic cradles that tilt inwards.

The three rotary heads can tilt inwards and ensure better contact with the skin.

The cutters themselves are suspended on springs and can flex independently. You can see that in action in the image below:

Animation showing the 3 heads of the Norelco 3800 tilting inwards.

This very simple setup is however quite effective at maintaining constant contact with the skin when shaving different areas of your face, like the jawline and chin.

It’s even suitable for shaving your head as the cutters will mold to the spherical shape of the skull.

2. 5D Pivot & Flex

Closeup of the so called 5D Pivot & Flex head.

Apart from the flexing of the cutters mentioned above, the whole shaving unit can tilt back and forth by a few degrees.

Philips seems to make a great deal out of this feature and it even gave it a pompous name, 5D Pivot & Flex.

You’ll see the 5D logo on the sides of the shaving head right over the pivot points.

However, as you’ll see later on, this feature is of little to no use as the range of motion is really limited and you must exert a lot of pressure in order to engage it, more than you’ll ever use while shaving.

I thought this deserved a special mention as it’s one of the main features that differentiate the shavers in the Series 3000 range from the ones in the cheaper Series 2000.

3. 60 minutes of cordless wet/dry operation

The Philips Norelco 3800 is a cordless only shaver.

Being a wet/dry shaver, the Philips Norelco 3800 (S3311) will only work cordless.

As such, it’s fitted with a rather beefy battery that should last for up to one hour of cordless shaving.

That is pretty impressive for a shaver in this price range (better than a Braun Series 3 ProSkin or a Panasonic Arc 3).

It would have been an absolute win if the Shaver 3800 also worked with the cord plugged in.

The cheaper (dry only) Shaver 2300 works corded and cordless. It does take 6 hours to charge though vs only one hour in the case of the 3800, so that’s a tradeoff.

4. Pop-up trimmer

Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 pop-up trimmer.

Unlike some of the high-end Philips rotary shavers, the 3800 comes with an integrated spring-loaded hair trimmer.

This is more practical in my view than the click-on trimmers you would fit in place of the shaving unit.

That said, the trimmer on the Norelco Shaver 3800 is only suitable for some quick touchups and light grooming.

I wouldn’t use it to trim my beard for example, it’ll take ages and won’t be easy.

5. Warranty

The Philips Norelco 3800 comes with a standard 2-year warranty. You also have a 45-day money-back guarantee if you’re not happy with the shaver.

Included accessories

The content of the Norelco 3800 retail box.

Here’s what you’ll be getting with the Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 (S3311/85):

  • Electric shaver
  • Protective cap
  • Travel pouch
  • Charging stand
  • Power cord
  • User manual

Out of all the major brands, Philips has to be my least favorite when it comes to packaging.

And while the 3800 doesn’t come in those horrible all-plastic blisters like the Series 2000, it’s still bad.

The retail box of the Philips Norelco Shaver 3800.

If you won’t be using the shaver and the accessories for a while and want to store it in the original packaging, it’ll be a pain to fit everything back inside.

But getting back to the accessories, it is a pretty good bundle. In fact, it’s what differentiates the Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 from the Shaver 3500.

Precisely, the 3800 also comes with a charging stand, while the Shaver 3500 (S3212/82) doesn’t include one.

The Norelco Shaver 3800 and the included charging stand.
The Norelco Shaver 3800 and the included charging stand.

If it’s something you must have (some users want the shaver standing upright on the countertop), then the Norelco Shaver 3800 is the one to have.

The textile travel pouch is nothing special, offers basically no protection against mechanical shocks but it’s still better than nothing.

I would take it over those velvety sacks that Panasonic now includes (even with some expensive Arc 5 models).

There’s enough room for the shaver and the charger and maybe a small tube of aftershave, moisturizer, etc.

The protective cap is a nice surprise and a rare find with a rotary razor.

The Shaver 3800 comes with a plastic protective cap.

The charging stand even has small rubber feet, looks nice and feels sturdy.

You can charge the shaver either via the stand or by plugging the cord directly into the shaver’s charging port.

All in all, a very decent kit (although a small cleaning brush would have been great).

Build quality and ergonomics

The Philips Norelco Shaver 3800.

The refreshed Philips Series 3000 that the Shaver 3800 and 3500 are part of is in my opinion excellent from a design and ergonomics standpoint.

Apart from the aesthetics — the previous Series 3000 shavers looked really drab and unexciting — there are some other aspects that deserve some praise.

Philips Norelco Shaver 3800.

The build quality of the Norelco 3800 is more than adequate for an entry-level rotary.

It’s also very lightweight at only 189 grams (6.6 oz), but doesn’t have that hollow or cheap plastic feel.

The Shaver 3800 held in hand.

There are no sharp edges or uneven gaps between the panels and despite the all-plastic build, it feels solid and well put together.

And it’s the same for the protective cap and charging stand, they don’t look or feel cheap. The stand even has small rubber feet to prevent it from sliding around.

The charging stand that comes with the Shaver 3800 looks and feels like a quality accessory.

But the highlights, at least for me, are the excellent ergonomics and ease of use.

I would actually rate this Shaver 3800 higher than other more expensive Norelcos from the Series 6000 or 7000.

It’s one of the most enjoyable and easiest to use rotaries out there: compact, well-balanced, lightweight and fits great in the hand.

The textured rubber-like material on the front and sides is very grippy and the placement is just right.

My thumb rests exactly on it while shaving.

Another apparently minor aspect that I really appreciate with any rotary shaver is the hinged shaving unit that you can flip open with the press of a button.

The flip open head of the Norelco Shaver 3800.

With other premium Norelcos like the S9000 Prestige or the old Series 9000 you’d have to pry it off with your fingers (being simply friction fitted).

 This flip-open head of the Series 3000 is very convenient for a quick rinse with tap water.

Another practical addition is the integrated pop-up trimmer.

The backside of the Shaver 3800 with the integrated hair trimmer.

You don’t have to swap the shaving head with a trimmer attachment, you simply deploy it via the switch right below it and start grooming.

Below the thumb rest, there’s the power button and the battery indicator.

Closeup of the Shaver 3800 3-level battery display.

The latter is pretty basic with only 3 levels, but it’s still better and most useful than what you’ll find on other entry-level razors.

Let’s now check out the negatives because the Norelco Shaver 3800 is not by any means perfect.

First, there’s no travel lock. The power button doesn’t double as a travel lock (via a long press), it’s just a button that turns the shaver on and off.

This would have been useful when traveling as the switch is very easy to press and the shaver could be switched on involuntarily.

Then there’s the trimmer.

The spring keeping it upright is so weak that it’ll fall back in place during an upstroke if you don’t hold the shaver at a particular angle relative to the skin.

This makes using the trimmer rather annoying and ineffective.

I’ve mentioned this in many other reviews, but Philips and Braun should really learn a thing or two from Panasonic when it comes to hair trimmers.

Panasonic trimmers are by far the best and most effective.

Finally, the tilting of the whole shaving unit (the 5D flexing thing) is pretty much useless as it barely moves and it takes more pressure than you’ll ever use while shaving.

You can see it in action below:

The 5D flexing system in action.

Then again, you don’t really need it as the flexing of the 3 cutters is enough for keeping them flat on the skin.

I’ve actually used the Shaver 3800 side by side with another one that uses the same design but lacks this 5D feature and there’s really no difference.

Norelco Shaver 3800 (5D Pivot&Flex) vs the Shaver 2300 (no 5D flexing head).
Norelco Shaver 3800 (5D Pivot&Flex) vs the Shaver 2300 (no 5D flexing head).

Overall, I’d say the Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 is an easy-to-use, well-built shaver with great ergonomics.

There are a few negatives as well, but the good parts far outweigh them.

Battery life and charging

As noted at the beginning, the Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 (S3311/85) can only be used without the cord connected to an outlet.

The rechargeable Li-Ion battery provides excellent autonomy of 60 minutes of cordless use.

Tip: You should charge the shaver completely before using it for the first time.

Charging the Shaver 3800 with the cord.

Charging it from 0 to 100% takes a little less than one hour, which is again really good.

On top of that, there’s a 5-minute quick charge feature built in.

When the battery is completely depleted, you can charge it for just 5 minutes and get just enough juice for a quick shave.

You know the battery is fast charging by the fast blinking of the bottom indicator when the shaver is plugged in.

After approximately 5 minutes, the light will flash slowly, meaning the fast charge is completed and you can now shave for 5 minutes.

And speaking of the battery level indicators, the bottom one will flash orange when the battery is almost drained (around 5 minutes worth of shaving time remaining).

The low battery LED light shown on the Shaver 3800's display.

When that happens, you should charge the razor.

In the case of the Norelco 3800, you can do that either by plugging the cord directly into the shaver or by placing it into the charging stand.

Charging the Norelco Shaver 3800 via the stand.

So you do not have to bring the stand with you when going on a holiday for example.

The charger provided with the Philips Norelco 3800 has a universal voltage adapter (100–240v) and you can use it while traveling abroad as well.

You may need a simple plug adapter in certain countries. My review unit came with a USA plug and I used a basic US to EU adapter (I am located in Europe).

In conclusion, the Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 has solid battery life, a 5-minute quick charge feature, takes less than an hour to fully charge and the charger is lightweight and compact.

It will easily fit next to the shaver inside the travel pouch.

The only thing missing is the ability to use the Norelco 3800 with the cord plugged in.

Shaving performance

Let’s now get to the part that matters the most and see if the Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 is any good.

As with all the tests on this website, I’ve used the 3800 exclusively for almost a month, switching to other shavers only occasionally and solely for the purpose of a direct comparison (more on that in the alternatives section).

I think I managed to cover most of the real-world use cases which really come down to shaving a short, medium and a longer bead (4 days of growth), but also using a couple of products that should improve the results (pre-shave lotions, shaving cream).

I will break down this section into a few chunks, each one focusing on one key aspect.

Closeness of the shave

Except for the Series 1000 and 2000, the 3000 is, at least on paper, one of Norelco’s less-capable electric shavers.

However, the Shaver 3800 managed to perform surprisingly well for most of the things that matter, including the closeness of the shave.

It’s generally accepted that rotary razors aren’t the best choice if your only concern is getting the closest possible shave.

For most users, a quality foil shaver in the same price range will be able to cut the hair closer to the skin.

Philips tried to compensate for that handicap in the past with the use of the so-called Lift & Cut blades.

The lift and cut system from Philips.
The lift and cut system from Philips. Image credit: philips.nl

By using pairs of blades, the first one lifting the hair and the second one cutting it below skin level, you would theoretically get a closer shave.

In reality, these blades were extremely uncomfortable and at least in my case unusable, with constant stinging and the sensations of hairs getting yanked instead of cut.

Luckily, Philips ditched them in favor of single blades and that was the right decision in my opinion.

SH30 blade and guard.
The single-blade design of the SH30 cutters.

These blades are also fitted to the Shaver 3800 in this review and not only are they comfortable, but the closeness is also good enough.

In fact, I would argue that most users will get a smoother shave with them since you can be a lot more thorough and even apply a bit more pressure.

I would rate the closeness of the Shaver 3800 just slightly below a similarly priced foil razor like the Braun Series 3 ProSkin and the Panasonic Arc 3.

And that’s mainly because on areas with denser, thicker hair — in my case the chin and below the nose — the closeness with the Norelco Shaver 3800 could have been better.

Running my fingers over those areas after my shave would feel a bit rougher to the touch compared to using the aforementioned foil razors.

The difference wasn’t however major and if you favor rotaries over foil shavers you might in fact get better results.

I do prefer foil razors, so my experience may not be the most relevant.

I shaved with the Norelco 3800 dry, with and without a pre-shave and also with shaving cream.

My favorite way of using the Shaver 3800 (and the one I’d recommend to most men) is dry with a pre-shave lotion.

I tried a few with this razor and the one that came on top was by far the pre-shave from Speick.

Shaving with the Norelco 3800 and a pre-shave lotion will likely result in a better shave.

The shave was closer, more comfortable and took less time compared to not using a pre-shave.

Also, I found that with rotary shavers like the 3800, pre-shaves that are a bit oilier work best (Speick, Lab Series, Lectric Shave).

While I normally like the ones that have a very dry texture (like Tabac), when using a rotary with a large shaving head those pre-shaves can make the motion jerky.

The shaving head would get stuck and the circular motion won’t be smooth and planted on the skin, which will make your shave a lot less enjoyable and it’ll take more passes for a smooth shave.

The closeness with shaving cream was equally good, but the prep and cleaning take longer and I don’t think the end result is worth the extra work in this case.

A pre-shave, on the other hand, takes seconds to apply and in most cases, it will be beneficial, so I definitely recommend using one with the Norelco Shaver 3800.

Overall, the closeness was more than adequate for an entry-level rotary razor.

If however you’re highly demanding with the closeness of your shave, I would rather look at a more capable foil razor.

Comfort

I already hinted at this in the previous section, so it won’t come as a surprise that the 3800 is, for the most part, a comfortable and smooth shaver.

I do have very sensitive skin, especially on my neck, but I was perfectly fine using the 3800 dry which is something I can’t do with every rotary razor.

I think the main reason for the shaver’s gentle profile is the use of single blades instead of the Lift & Cut type.

But there are definitely a few other factors that contribute as well.

The motor for example feels and sounds more powerful compared to the ones fitted to the less expensive 2000 and 1000 Series.

A faster motor means a clean cut and fewer chances of hairs getting pulled during a faster stroke.

And that was actually the only time when the Shaver 3800 inflicted some discomfort.

When shaving a longer, 4-day beard, and moving the shaver too fast, it would snag a hair or two, especially the flat-lying ones on the neck.

But that wasn’t an issue when using slower, more controlled strokes.

The shaver itself is lightweight and the head is pretty compact for a rotary which makes using the Norelco Shaver 3800 very pleasant.

That’s in contrast with some of the latest Philips higher-end shavers like the new Series 9000 9500 which have these large angular heads.

The new Philips Series 9000 next to the Series 3000.
The new Philips Series 9000 next to the Series 3000 Shaver 3800.

The 3800 is definitely nimbler and more manageable.

Also, the three cutters are suspended or these hairsprings and are very responsive, so most of the time the cutters will be flat on the skin, which is ideal for preventing hairs from getting pulled.

Finally, the shaving head glides smoothly over the skin, especially when using a pre-shave. Surprisingly, not all rotary razors manage to get this right.

Fortunately, the Norelco Shaver 3800 does get it right and it’s easy and enjoyable to use.

I don’t think this razor would be my first pick for someone with sensitive skin, but it can work reasonably well, especially if you need a rotary shaver (low noise, personal preference, etc.).

During my tests, the Shaver 3800 was adequately comfortable regardless of the beard length (I did have to go slower when shaving a 4-day bead) or whether I shaved wet or dry.

Shaving longer, flat-lying hairs

This was again an area where the Norelco Shaver 3800 did quite well.

Rotary razors are generally effective when shaving difficult hairs — in my experience better than most similarly priced foil shavers.

By difficult hairs I mean the ones that grow in different directions or stay flat on the skin.

And the longer the hair, the more tricky it is for the shaver to cut it.

I’d say the Shaver 3800 will work well on a 4-day beard or less. That’s just a general rule of thumb as it will depend on how fast your stubble grows.

Someone with a light beard that grows back slower would probably still get a decent shave after more days.

Personally, I was happy with the way the shaver handled the flat-lying hairs on my neck (and I’ve got plenty of those).

It was quite effective and I didn’t need an excessive number of passes for a smooth shave.

Hair trimmer

I think Philips deserves props for including a hair trimmer on low-end shavers like the 2000 and 3000 Series.

But the trimmers themselves aren’t great, to be honest.

And that’s the case with the one on the Shaver 3800 as well.

Even though the trimmer is placed just right and is adequately wide, it’s just not very effective.

Fron view of the Shaver 3800 hair trimmer.

It takes many strokes to cut the hairs clean and the blade just doesn’t get as close to the skin as I’d like.

And then there’s the issue mentioned earlier — the trimmer will just fall back during an upstroke if you don’t hold it at the right angle.

It’s still better than having no trimmer at all and you can use it to clean your sideburns or for some light facial hair grooming.

I would not rely on it for trimming an entire beard, at least not on a regular basis.

Noise

The Philips Norelco 3800 is a very quiet electric shaver during use.

That comes as no surprise since rotary blades spin at a much slower rate compared to the reciprocating blades of foil shavers and the vibrations are also a lot less noticeable.

As a result, this shaver only emits the typical rotary whirring sound which to me was more than manageable and I didn’t find it disturbing in any way.

Key takeaway

Philips Norelco Shaver 3800.

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The Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 (S3311/85) is easy and enjoyable to use, works well on different stubble lengths and for most men, it will provide a reasonably close and comfortable shave.

Cleaning and maintenance

Because the Norelco Shaver 3800 is waterproof and has a simple cutting system, cleaning it is very straightforward and the razor is almost maintenance-free.

A quick rinse with warm tap water after every shave is generally all it takes.

Once you’ve finished shaving, turn the razor off, pop open the shaving unit and rinse it generously under the tap.

Rinsing the shaver with warm tap water.

Make sure to wash the hair chamber, but also the inside and outside of the shaving unit that holds the three cutting heads.

Shake off the excess water (make sure to hold the shaving head as it can literally fly off the handle), then let the shaver air dry completely with the shaving unit open.

And that’s pretty much it.

I do need to make a couple of notes though.

If you wet shave using shaving cream or gel, I suggest using a bit of liquid soap as well; just rinsing the shaver with water likely won’t be enough.

It may look clean, but even in small traces lather will harden and form buildups which will impact the performance of the razor.

After a wet shave, pour a couple of drops of liquid soap on the shaving head, add some water and turn the razor on for a few seconds.

Cleaning the Shaver 3800 with water and liquid hand soap.
Cleaning the Shaver 3800 with water and liquid hand soap.

Use your finger to spread the soap across the three cutters, then rinse it thoroughly with warm tap water.

Pop open the shaving head and give everything one final rinse.

Also, I noticed with my 3800 that some hairs remain stuck to the base of the three shafts that turn the cutters no matter how thoroughly I rinse the shaver.

The Shaver 3800 hair pocket.

In that case, you can use a small brush to remove the remaining hairs.

Philips unfortunately doesn’t include a brush with the 3800, so you’ll have to come up with one.

Deep cleaning the Shaver 3800

Finally, if you notice dirt buildups inside the actual cutters or you feel the razor slowing down, you will need to take apart the shaving head and clean it.

Most of the time this won’t be necessary, but I will describe it below as it’s also the procedure you would follow when replacing the Shaver 3800 heads with new ones.

This is a fiddly operation that must be done carefully as the combs and blades are matching pairs and intermixing them will negatively impact the performance of the shaver.

Here’s how to do it.

With the shaver turned off, pop open the shaving head and gently pull the top part from the handle.

The detached shaving unit.

It should come out fairly easily.

You must now unlock and remove the retaining frame by turning the center lock counterclockwise.

You now have access to the three pairs of combs and blades.

The disassembled shaving head of the Norelco 3800.

Remove and clean them with tap water one by one, making sure not to mix them.

Cleaning the rotary cutter.

Once you’ve done this for all three pairs, put the retaining bracket back in place and turn the lock clockwise.

Lubrication

Philips only mentions lubricating the Shaver 3800’s trimmer (once every 6 months), but nothing regarding the blades.

You can use any highly refined mineral oil like clipper oil.

Also, applying a cleaning & lubricating spray for electric shavers on the cutters would be beneficial in my opinion.

Philips even makes such a spray, but any brand would work (Remington Shaver Saver, Andis CoolCare Plus, etc).

Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 replacement heads

The Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 comes with the SH30 blades, just like the rest of the Series 3000 models.

These are relatively cheap, easy to find and durable shaving heads.

Philips Norelco SH30 replacement heads

SH30-52

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Philips recommends replacing them with new ones every 12 months, but oftentimes rotary blades tend to last more.

It will greatly depend on how often you shave and the coarseness of your beard.

You should replace the blades when you notice a performance drop (closeness not as good, irritation, hairs getting pulled, shaving heads getting really warm).

I described how you should access and replace the shaving heads above, but your user guide will have detailed instructions with illustrations as well.

Wrapup — Should you buy the Norelco Shaver 3800?

Concluding the review, I think the Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 would be a safe buy for most men looking for a rotary razor that won’t break the bank.

The Norelco Shaver 3800 and the included charging stand.

While it’s not as capable as Philips Norelco’s top-of-the-line rotaries (like the S9000 Prestige), it gets the job done and it’s a really pleasant and easy-to-use shaver.

The closeness is good enough in my book and so is the comfort.

It also works well on longer stubble, so it’ll be a good option for men that don’t follow a strict shaving routine.

It comes with quite a few goodies in the box and the quality is more than adequate.

That said, everything good about the Shaver 3800 is a trait of the whole Series 3000.

And this range also includes cheaper shavers that perform absolutely identically. And that’s the main problem with the pricier Shaver 3800.

I’m not by any means saying you shouldn’t get the Shaver 3800, it’s just that the retail price is a bit high in my opinion.

I would definitely keep an eye out for some special deal or discount.

Also, unless you absolutely need the charging stand — which is really the only thing you’re paying extra for — you should probably consider other models in the 3000 Series.

For some users getting a charging stand that holds the shaver upright is a must. For example, very limited countertop space.

But if that’s not an issue, the Shaver 3800 isn’t better than other more affordable shavers in the Series 3000.

Those use the same design, same shaving heads and same motor.

The shaving performance will be identical. So let’s check out some alternatives.

Alternative shavers

The first obvious alternative would be the Philips Norelco Shaver 3500 (S3212/82) that I’ve also mentioned throughout this review.

Philips Norelco Shaver 3500

Philips Shaver 3500.

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Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 vs 3500

Apart from a different color and the lack of a charging stand, the Philips Norelco Shaver 3500 is identical to the Shaver 3800.

You might as well consider this a Norelco Shaver 3500 review as everything stated above would still be relevant for the 3500.

But the most important difference between the 3500 and 3800 is in my opinion the price, the former being cheaper.

So unless you need the stand, you should definitely consider the Shaver 3500, especially if you can get it for (a lot) less.

Side note: other shavers in the new Series 3000 that are usually cheaper than the 3800 are the S3210/51, S3134/84 and S3115/81.

They usually come with fewer accessories and the S3134/84 and S3115/81 have a single-level battery indicator. The shaving performance is however identical to the Shaver 3800/3500.

Finally, there’s the shaver that I usually recommend as a cheap, reliable rotary razor, the Norelco Shaver 2300.

Philips Norelco Shaver 2300 S1211/81.

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Its main advantages over the Shaver 3800 are the cheaper price and the ability to use it with the cord plugged in as well.

For some users, corded & cordless use is really important, especially in the context of long-term use.

The Shaver 2300 is really similar to the 3800 (and 3500) as you can also tell from the side-by-side comparison below:

The Philips Shaver 3800 next to the 2300.
Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 and 2300, respectively.

The 2300 even uses the same SH30 blades and while the whole shaving unit doesn’t have the 5D flexing head, you really won’t notice that.

When used cordless, the battery life of the 2300 is not as impressive, being good for around 40 minutes of use. It also lacks the 3-level battery indicator.

So what’s the catch then, you might ask.

It’s basically the same, only cheaper and works corded as well.

There is one rather important difference though.

The motor fitted to the Shaver 2300 (which is part of the Series 2000) sounds and feels slower than the one in the Series 3000 (like the Shaver 3800 and 3500).

And while the end results in terms of closeness and comfort will be very similar, it’ll take you longer to shave with the 2300 compared to the 3800.

You’ll also have to work a bit harder to get the same smooth shave.

For users with light beards, I don’t think it’ll be an issue, but if you have a medium to coarse beard, I think you’d be better off with the 3800.

It’s just more enjoyable to use and I personally notice the difference in power.

Finally, if you’re looking for an affordable and capable electric shaver, but doesn’t necessarily have to be a rotary — maybe you shave more often — definitely check out a foil shaver.

A Braun Series 3 ProSkin (like the 3040s) or a Panasonic Arc 3 (like the ES-LL41-K or the ES8103S) often cost less and in many cases will provide a slightly closer and more comfortable shave.

Panasonic ES8103S.
Panasonic ES8103S.

They aren’t however as good as the Shaver 3800 with longer, flat-lying hairs, so consider that as well.

Foil shavers usually work best on short stubble, so the ones mentioned above would be ideal for men that shave daily or every two days.

And that pretty much concludes this test.

If you have any questions or you’d like to share your experience with the Philips Norelco 3800, make sure to leave a comment below.

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Hey. I’m Ovidiu, the founder and editor of ShaverCheck. I independently buy and test electric shavers and I’ve been sharing my findings on this site for more than 10 years, hopefully helping others choose a suitable shaver.

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48 thoughts on “Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 Review: Should You Buy It?”

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      • I found your review very helpful. Mainly because I just bought the 3800 during Amazon’s Prime Day sale at a 23% savings. $64 and change with tax. Your review gave me some helpful tips like, I’m heading out today to find one of the pre-shaves that you recommended and tonight I will order 3 replacement blades with a cleaning brush which is on sale at 60% savings. Not because I need new blades but because the one thing I found disappointing about the 3800 kit was that it didn’t come with a small cleaning brush.
        All the Pros you mentioned was why I bought the 3800 a decently close shave at a decent price. I’m a shave every 2 or 3 days kind of guy. So I don’t require the closest shave on the planet, but when I do I still have my trusty old razor blade on that rare occasion when an electric shave won’t do. I bought the 3800 because I want to avoid the time & bother that comes with a non-electric shave. I bought the 3800 over other Phillips razors because of the price being on sale and the pop-up trimmer. I only require the trimmer to trim the bottom of my sideburns, so being awkward when it comes to trimming a beard is unnecessary. And since I already own a Brawn beard trimmer I don’t even need to trim the length of my sideburns hairs because I can do that better and more efficiently with a beard trimmer.
        For me the Phillips Norelco 3800 seemed to fit my needs the best of all those I looked at on-line before making my purchase and your review has done nothing but stroke my ego by reinforcing my wisdom in making my choice. Plus you gave me helpful tips on use and maintaining my 3800, so thank you for your thoughtful and easy to follow review.

        Reply
        • John,

          Thanks so much for the comment. It does sound like the 3800 is great fit for what you need. And you got a great deal on it, which is ideal. Hope you’ll enjoy shaving with your new Philips razor.

          Sincerely,
          Ovidiu

          Reply
    • Thank you, Wayne, I appreciate it.

      Surprisingly, the SH50 cutters seem just a bit grabbier to me. Very similar though overall which isn’t surprising when looking at both blades side by side. The SH50s guards have slits and holes, but don’t seem to make a noticeable difference. My bias towards the SH30 could also have something to do with the fact that I actually prefer the Series 3000 form factor/head unit to the Series 5000 for example. It’s a really subjective thing, I just enjoy shaving with the former more.

      The SH60 blades are in my opinion the first significant upgrade over the SH30 in this low to mid-range category. Those are very smooth and cut maybe a bit closer. Unfortunately something happened with the Series 6000 shavers that come with those blades. They’re getting difficult to find or are very expensive. Also, the European Series 6000 strangely come with the SH50 heads, so I would actually get a Series 3000 instead (similar performance for less money).

      Sincerely,
      Ovidiu

      Reply
      • SH50’s are ok but I like the HQ8’s better in my 8865XL Spectra. HQ9 Triple Tracks shave even smoother and are more comfortable. Philips needs to do a newer version of the HQ9 for the lower end, and vintage model shavers. If not triple track maybe like the SH98.

        Reply
    • Yes, they seem to fit just fine. The SH30 guards are ever so slightly thicker and will stick out a bit more from the cradles, but it shouldn’t matter. I can’t tell how well it will work in the long run though, I just haven’t used any of the higher-end cutters in a Series 3000. The Prestige for example sounds faster and I believe its motor is more powerful (Philips doesn’t provide any specs), but you should still benefit from the SH98 heads for example when fitted to a 3800.

      Sincerely,
      Ovidiu

      Reply
  1. I really enjoyed reading your review of The Philips Norelco 3800 shaver and it was very informative. I currently have had a Philips Norelco series 5000 for almost 2 years and I’m just not happy with the performance of it. Leaves a lot of stubble behind especially on my chin. Based on what you said about the model 3500 shaving identical to the 3800 I think I may just buy the 3500, and the local Walmart here has them in stock. Would you say that the 3500 would be a closer shave than the series 5000?

    Reply
    • Hi Scott,

      Thank you for the comment. I personally prefer the form factor and the shaving head of the 3800/3500 to the Series 5000, but I doubt you’ll get a substantially better shave with those. Both the Series 3000 and 5000 are similar performance-wise. In my opinion to get a closer shave you would need a decent foil shaver. The budget-friendly pick is in my opinion the Panasonic Arc 3 — any model fitted with a 13 000 CPM motor (like the ES8103, ES-LT67, ES-LL41-K etc) would do. They all shave the same, so choosing one comes down to the price. An Arc 4 and Arc 5 are even more capable, but also cost more. If you can get a good deal on the ES-LV65 or ES-LV67, those are really good.

      Sincerely,
      Ovidiu

      Reply
      • Hi Ovidiu. I took a chance and bought the Philips Norelco 3500 and I’m sure glad that I did. The Shaving performance is like day and night compared to the Philips Norelco series 5000 that I have. Much closer and I don’t need to go over and over areas as I did before. And I don’t have the frustration of remaining stubble like I did with the 5000. I have a moderate beard except for my chin area which is quite coarse, and this shaver handles it very very well. I’m retired, so I now shave every other day and that’s no problem at all for the 3500. If it weren’t for happening to see your review of the 3800, I wouldn’t have even thought to consider this shaver so I’m glad I found out about it. I’m very impressed with it and thank you very much for recommending it.

        Reply
        • Hi Scott,

          Thank you for the follow-up — that’s awesome. It’s a great entry-level rotary, I actually prefer it to the more expensive Series 5000 and even 7000. Enjoy shaving with your new 3500.

          Sincerely,
          Ovidiu

          Reply
  2. Hi Ovidiu, based on your review, I bought a Philips 3000 series shaver and I have to say, I think it’s better than my 5000 series! The battery lasts much longer, and the shave itself is much smoother. Thank you for your recommendation. Regards, Julian.

    Reply
  3. I am trying to get either a shaving unit release button for my Norelco Shaver 3800.
    Can someone direct me to a parts supplier?
    Many thanks for your help!!

    Reply
  4. Will the SH30 heads fit in the older Norelco AT830/4500 shaver? I know that the HQ8 heads were replaced by the SH50 heads but I’m unsure if the SH30 heads will fit. Also, do you know how the SH30 heads differ from the SH50 heads? Thanks.

    Reply
    • Hi Wayne,

      Yes, the SH30 will also fit. They differ quite a lot, in the sense that the SH30 have a single blade design, while the SH50 use the SuperLift&Cut blades, just like the old HQ8. So the SH50 cutters are a lot more similar to the HQ8, feeling harsher on the skin, while the SH30 are more comfortable. Some users argue that the HQ8/SH50 shave closer, but I for example can’t get past the irritation and I’m actually getting closer shaves with the SH30.

      As a side note, the old Series 5000 (with rounded heads) came with the SH50, while the new generation Series 5000 (with the pentagonal heads) now comes with SH71 single-blade heads that were carried over from the new Series 7000. So Philips basically dropped the SuperLift&Cut blades entirely across all their families of shavers.

      Sincerely,
      Ovidiu

      Reply
      • Thanks for this information. I thought before giving away my older AT830/4500 that I would shave with it a few more times. The shaves were so-so but the harshness, particularly on the neck, was far greater than any shave with my Prestige. I hate to just get rid of a perfectly functioning shaver so I’ll pick up some SH30 blades now that I know this. Thanks.

        Reply
          • So, I shaved with my old AT830 (aka: 4500) mounted with my new SH30 blades and wow… what a difference. No irritation whatsoever and … well … I hate to say it, but the shave was every bit as good as the Prestige, the returned 9500 series shaver and my older 9721. Honestly, I’m flabbergasted with this result. It has to be a fluke or perhaps my judgment was off. I’ll update you Norelco fans tomorrow when I try again. But for today, I’m smiling that such an inexpensive shaver and blades could provide such a shave equal to the most expensive Norelco. We’ll see how things go tomorrow. 🙂

          • Great to hear that, Wayne — and thank you for following up on this. Since Philips discontinued the excellent Series 6000, I’ve always said that unless someone wants the range topping model with all the bells and whistles, the Series 3000 is really just as good as the current mid-range series (5000, new 6000 and 7000). On top of that, it’s cheaper and easier to use thanks to the rounded heads.

            Sincerely,
            Ovidiu

  5. Okay… time to update this after shaving a second day with the SH30 blades in the 4500 shaver. The shave is definitely more comfortable than what I had been getting with the SH50 blades. Is it closer? After today’s shave (with Speick preshave and going over my face and neck carefully for about 8 minutes) I would have to say that my initial excitement was a bit over zealous. It’s a good shave and an acceptable shave but not necessarily closer than the previous blades. When I was done I showered and a bit later took out the 9721 with the SH98 blades and shaved carefully on my chin and jawline where the shave this morning was acceptable but not great. I popped open the head and there was facial hair inside. Right now my face is baby smooth but only after applying the 9721. I’m not disappointed in purchasing the SH30 blades since it has given new life to a Christmas present my wife gave to me several years back. I will still use it since I love the form factor and the shave is definitely a “good” shave. I will, however, return to the 9000 series shavers with the SH98 blades. I doubt Philips has made a better blade than the SH98 although the SH91 were pretty dang close when I had the 9500 series shaver. Yesterdays’ enthusiasm tempered by today’s reality, eh? haha

    Reply
    • I wasn’t that surprised by the over zealous conclusion — I’ve got similar feedback before as well from users comparing a Series 3000 to a 9000. The latter is more powerful and both the SH91 and SH98 have two concentric tracks, so it should be better/closer. The SH30 are Norelco’s entry-level blades, but are really good, I like them a lot — very comfortable and enjoyable to use in a small shaver. That’s the main improvement over the discontinued double-edge blades like the SH50 (same for the SH98 and SH91 relative to the old SH90).

      Anyway, I’m glad your old 4500 will be put to good use. 🙂

      Sincerely,
      Ovidiu

      Reply
      • I wish they would make a triple track version that would rival the now discontinued HQ9 blades that work well in my older Norelco’s. Eventually I won’t be able to resharpen mine anymore due to too much cutting surface having been removed.

        Reply
        • I would very much like to see that as well (along with the revival of other discontinued heads and even shavers). But unfortunately the chances of that happening are (realistically speaking) zero.

          Sincerely,
          Ovidiu

          Reply
  6. Thank you for the excellent review. I became disillusioned with electric shavers after having some major QC issues with my Braun Series 9 (replacement cassettes did not seem nearly as good or durable as the original; power button popped off after about two years even though it was never dropped; finish started flaking off) to the point that I got into wet shaving with a double edge safety razor. Soap, brush, multiple passes, aftershave, balm, etc. And while I enjoy that process, it just takes too long for a workday morning so I wanted to find a new electric but something other than a Braun and not super expensive.

    After reading many reviews, I went with the 3500 as the head shape seemed better than the higher end Norelco models (thank you very much for pointing this out!) and it seemed to be a pretty good value, especially since I got it on sale. I’m really impressed by how well it works for a relatively cheap shaver. I think the key is that I accept what the shaver is and the result it intends to deliver. This thing is not meant to give you a super close shave that leaves your skin feeling totally smooth; it is meant to give you a good enough shave so that you look presentable. And it does that superbly and in a short amount of time (5 minutes or less including Lectric Shave splash, shave and aftershave splash). Does it leave behind some stubble? Yes, but it’s a close enough shave that no one will notice without touching my face. And it doesn’t irritate my skin like the foil shavers used to when I would push them to get too close of a shave.

    I’ve only had the 3500 for a month so I can’t speak to durability yet but so far so good!

    Reply
    • Bill,

      Thank you so much for the comment.

      You’ve summarized everything perfectly — close enough is often good enough, especially when considering the effort involved and how easy it is to get a decent shave. The 3500 is a basic shaver and that alone makes this entry-level models more durable. Rotary cutters also last longer than micro-foils and there’s really not much that can break.

      Sincerely,
      Ovidiu

      Reply
  7. I had purchase Philips electric shaver 3000 3122/55 totally waste of money product shaver not working propely its hurts and damaging my skin its pathentic product had given complain at call centre but he said to me its new product so take time.

    Reply
    • Hey,

      Sorry for the bad experience you’ve had so far. If it’s your first electric/rotary shaver, it can take some time until you get used to it and tweak your technique. Also, make sure your beard isn’t very long because any electric shaver will struggle to give you a smooth and comfortable shave in that case. Try shaving every two days and see how it goes, using light pressure and controlled, overlapping circular strokes.

      Hope this helps.

      Sincerely,
      Ovidiu

      Reply
  8. Now I’m really confused. Unless I have this wrong you wrote an article on 17 May 2023 about the model 3500 and three days later on 20 May 2023 you write this article on the 3800. In this article on the 3800 you say the razor has a good feel and comes with the SH30 blades and that an alternative razor is the 3500 which is identical but a bit cheaper because it doesn’t come with the razor stand. Here’s the problem: your article on the 3500 says it has the different lift and cut SH50 blades and that it feels “a bit too plasticky and a feels bit hollow.”

    So how can the 3500 be identical to the 3800 when they have different blades and when you say one feels good and the other feels plasticky? Did I get this wrong? Thanks.

    Reply
    • Hi Jim,

      Thank you for the comment.

      That article about the 3500 was originally posted in 2013 and only updated on 17 May 2023. As such, it refers to the old, now discontinued model which was also referred to as the 3500. And that one did feel like a less substantial shaver in hand. So it’s a different 3500. There is however one inaccuracy in that review — the old model uses the same SH30 blades and those don’t have the Super Lift & Cut design. I honestly don’t remember why I stated otherwise, I must have confused it with another shaver of that time. I will be updating the article and correct it.

      This review however (the one we’re commenting on) refers to to current 3500 and 3800 models which are basically the same minus some visual details and the charge stand included with the latter.

      Thanks again for the heads up.

      Sincerely,
      Ovidiu

      Reply
  9. Thanks for the informative review. I tried a 3500, and found it could not match a foil shaver in terms if closeness & comfort, but it came closer than I’d expected, and I do appreciate how well it shaves longer & flat lying hairs. I wonder about improving the performance by replacing the SH30 shaving heads with something better. If this is possible, then it makes more sense than upgrading to a higher end shaver, since the advanced features like beard sensors and fancy displays don’t seem useful. All I need a shaver to do is to turn the shaving heads – pretty simple. The heads themselves are what do the shaving. Does this make sense? If so, do you know which ones would be compatible & worth trying?

    Reply
    • Hi Barry,

      You could replace the SH30 for example with the SH91 cutters that come with the latest Prestige and the latest Series 9000. Those have dual tracks and are more effective (ie a closer shave in fewer passes) than the SH30. However, the cutters are just one part of the issue you’re experiencing. The other one (and equally important) is the motor. The motors fitted to the the Series 8000/9000 and particularly the Prestige are noticeably faster vs a Series 3000. So the power is in my opinion the (other) main advantage of the higher-end models apart from the cutters.

      Sincerely,
      Ovidiu

      Reply
      • Hello Ovidiu

        I would like to add that in my experience second track in metal combs is also important. SH30 combs have only one track and using cutters from different set may not work great in itself. I did something similar and it didn’t work well. Not to mention that he would pay much more for sh91 shaving heads and used only cutters because metal combs wouldn’t fit at all. I know that some people used cutters from sh91 and combs from sh90 and it worked for them but that is not something that happens regularly and they had series 9000 so it wasn’t much of a risk.

        Regards

        Reply
        • Hi Michael,

          Thank you for the comment. The use of SH91 would of course imply using both the cutters and the combs. I totally agree that there’s no point in using only the cutters from a higher series heads like the SH91. I did try them on my Series 3000 and 2000 shavers and the comb fits perfectly.

          Sincerely,
          Ovidiu

          Reply
          • Oh, really, well that is surprising to be honest. So tell me cause now i’m curious. In type of blades like sh30, sh50 or hq8 and hq9 before, in metal combs there are these two characteristic notches, which i thought are for combs to stand still and they are “missing” in blades like sh70 or sh91.
            So how metal combs like sh70 stay still in shaver like 3800 and what is the purpose of these notches in sh30 blades?

            Regards

          • That is correct, the tiny notches are there so that the comb wouldn’t spin inside the holder. Two tiny tabs from the locking ring/bracket will fit in the notches, locking the comb in place.

            Regarding your question, the SH70 and SH91 also have the notches, but since the bevel/rim of the comb is shallower, they aren’t as easy to spot. Here‘s a closeup of the SH91 comb, the arrows indicate where the notches are. And a closeup of the Shaver 3800 locking bracket with the two tabs that slide in the notches and prevent the comb from spinning (they will fit just fine in the notches of the SH91 comb as well).

            What mainly determines the compatibility of a certain model of heads is actually the shape of the blade hub, that plastic fitting at the center of the blade where the driving shaft would spline. With some older blades that hub can have a different shape and the shaft simply won’t fit. Also the SH70 are somewhat weird in the sense that the hubs are only slightly different and they won’t work perfectly in a Series 3000. The SH91 on the other hand will, but it’s a bit wasteful and overkill to use them in a Series 3000.

            Hope this makes sense.

            Sincerely,
            Ovidiu

          • Well yeah that makes sense.

            So if shape of center hub determines compatibility then in last few years mostly all philips blades are compatible.
            I mean the only one that comes to mind are sensotouch 2d and 3d that had that part different.
            Are there any others that you know of?

            And in your opinion could older shavers that had hq9 blades use sh91 in terms of motor?
            Technically hq9 had 2 tracks so should be up to the task.

            Regards

          • Yes, pretty much. Others that I can think of would be the HQ56/HQ55 and HQ4 that came with some older (entry-level) shavers.

            SH91 should work just fine replacing the HQ9.

            Sincerely,
            Ovidiu

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